Dr Omar Khorshid - Sydney COVID-19 outbreak

21 Dec 2020

Transcript:AMA President, Dr Omar Khorshid, Seven Network, Sunrise with Matt Doran and Belinda Russell, Monday, 21 December 2020
Subject: Sydney COVID-19 outbreak

Dr Omar Khorshid on Sunrise to discuss the Sydney COVID-19 outbreak

MATT DORAN: Sydney's COVID outbreak in Sydney has really escalated, with tough new restrictions now in place for the entire region. Household gatherings have been limited to 10 visitors, only 300 people are allowed at hospitality venues and places of worship.

BELINDA RUSSELL: Singing and chanting at indoor venues is banned, as is dancing, except at weddings where there are exceptions. Now residents are also asked not to visit any aged care facilities.

MATT DORAN: For more, we're joined now by the President of the Australian Medical Association, Dr Omar Khorshid. Doctor, thank you very much for being with us. Look, the next few days really are, it seems, going to make or break us, not just here in New South Wales, but beyond as we look at these border closures. Should the New South Wales Government, in your opinion, be going harder?

OMAR KHORSHID: Morning, Matt. Look, what the New South Wales Government has done is absolutely critical. We've got to get on top of this outbreak quickly to avoid the disaster that we saw in Melbourne, and we know that some of the other State Premiers would have gone harder, they would have gone with a short, sharp lockdown like we saw in South Australia. That was heavily criticised, but geez, it worked, didn't it? It really stamped out the virus, and they were able to get back to normal pretty quickly. Not sure yet whether that's going to be necessary in New South Wales, but the next couple of days are going to be absolutely critical, and it’s important that everyone in New South Wales does the right thing at this critical time.

BELINDA RUSSELL: Yeah, we've had a few very public outbreaks. Of course, the big outbreak in Victoria, then there was South Australia, and then there was Sydney's other outbreak at the Crossroads Hotel at Casula. Do you see that what is happening in the Northern Beaches is similar to any of those three events?

OMAR KHORSHID: Look, what we do know is that New South Wales has a good track record at getting on top of these smaller outbreaks, and some actually quite big outbreaks. But they did it at a time when there was more social distancing going on, more concern in the community. And what we've done more recently is we've relaxed; everyone around the country has relaxed, and that's why this outbreak is actually more dangerous than any we've seen before in New South Wales.

MATT DORAN: Doctor, I certainly don't want to take anything away from what authorities are doing in New South Wales, the contact tracers and others are doing a wonderful job. But you're the head of the Australia Medical Association, I find it alarming to have just heard you say you're not sure yet whether tougher restrictions are needed. By that I mean, why would we take the risk? Don't you think we should just go into a brutal, hard lockdown now, in case we're wrong?

OMAR KHORSHID: Look, what we've seen is Australians enjoy not having to put up with the restrictions. So, one really good option, and probably what I would do if I was Gladys Berejiklian, is actually say, you know, let's do it. Let's do a South Australian-style, short, sharp, less than a week lockdown - I know it's almost Christmas, it would so painful. But it would be a way to give your contact tracers the ability to get it done, you'll not be chasing up hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people, you're chasing smaller numbers, and then after a few days, start to wind back, and then you're back to normal. Now, that [indistinct]…

MATT DORAN: [Talks over] Make masks mandatory as well, Doctor?

OMAR KHORSHID: Look, I think so. We see Sydney people doing the right thing, they're out and about with their masks on. But it's a really unambiguous message if you say to the community, look, you've got to wear your masks. It's mandatory, everyone's going to do it, let's all do it together.

BELINDA RUSSELL: Alright. Well, Dr Omar Khorshid, we appreciate your time this morning. Thank you.

OMAR KHORSHID: Morning guys.